EXCLUSIVE: 100-year-old WWII vet, wife grab military medals before fleeing Glass Fire

ByCornell W. Barnard KGO logo
Wednesday, October 7, 2020
Exclusive: WWII vet, wife grab military medals before fleeing Glass Fire
A World War II veteran and his wife's home was destroyed in the Glass Fire, but they made it out, salvaging one thing - His military medals.

NAPA, Calif. (KGO) -- We're hearing more incredible stories of survival from the Glass Fire, including two newlyweds from St. Helena who escaped the smoke and flames with their lives, and a husband's priceless war medals and cherished memories.

"There was no question with all the smoke it was time to leave," said Howard Halla.

100-year-old Halla says the Glass Fire was closing in and there was no time to lose, so he and his new bride Joanne hightailed it out of their Deer Park neighborhood with their two dogs.

RELATED: Santa Rosa firefighter loses new home in Glass Fire just days after buying it

"It started a mile from our house, so we gotta go quick, better take the most important stuff," said Joanne Yates-Halla.

That stuff wasn't food or clothes. It was Howard's memorabilia from his decorated career, flying missions as a captain with the U.S. Army Air Corps during World War II.

As Howard showed us his combat medals, Joanne became emotional because there's nothing she treasures more.

"There's nothing in the house worth saving more than his memories, people need to understand what veterans do for us," said Yates-Halla.

VIDEO: Smoke, flames in wine country as Glass fires rage

California firefighters battled destructive new wildfires in wine country north of San Francisco Monday as strong winds fanned flames in the already badly scorched state. See scenes from the Glass Incident and other fires in the video above.

Sadly, the home they shared was reduced to rubble. Nothing to salvage. Yet, Howard is not giving up.

"It's not the challenge you're facing, it's how you're going to face the challenge, that's my creed," said Halla.

Howard and Joanne got married last July, they met in 2018 when he hired her to help compile a book about his military career. Howard took his time proposing.

"She gets upset, 'why'd it take you so damned long?'"

RELATED: Family heartbroken after 91-year-old Calistoga home destroyed in Glass Fire

These newlyweds are staying with friends for now, and plan to rebuild a new house for two, on the very same site.

"I have my memories but I've lived a long life in that house, now it's time for a new adventure. I'm lucky to have Howard, he's a rock," Yates-Halla added.

Howard and Joanne are moving on, together.

Get the latest updates and videos on the Glass Incident here.